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"Impeccable journalism; vivid narrative; Curt Petrovich takes us behind the scenes in a ten year legal saga to reveal how the justice system can abandon basic principles of justice when political and bureaucratic interests are on the line."

Linden MacIntyre, journalist, author, The Bishop's Man

  • Writer's pictureCurt Petrovich

Complete and Utter Garbage

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

It’s been nearly a year since the publication of Blamed and Broken. The overwhelming response I’ve had from people who’ve actually read it is one of surprise, usually accompanied by something like, “I had no idea”, or “How did this happen?”

I wrote the book because I wanted people to see the troubling patterns and connections that emerged when I stood back from it all. Something happens when we’re exposed to the same narrative about a story, over and over again. It’s numbing and becomes noise. Even journalists sometimes miss the bursts of signal buried in the static. I saw it happen again this week in news that the RCMP was looking into criminal complaints leveled by a current and former member. The stories I read are vague and focus on a process instead of the facts that might help readers weigh their significance. And headlines that suggest this is new, illustrate how out of touch the media has historically been with this case.

Towards the end of Blamed and Broken, I wrote about Constable Gerry Rundel’s impassioned letter in 2018 to the newly minted RCMP Commissioner, Brenda Lucki. Rundel wanted the RCMP to conduct a full-blown investigation into allegations that there was a deliberate and concerted effort in the Force to make the officers involved in Robert Dziekanski’s death shoulder all the public scorn, shame and legal accountability. He cited examples of how, despite evidence to the contrary, the RCMP adopted a public view that the members were guilty. I also detailed Lucki’s response, which didn’t repudiate the allegations, but was simply that “it would not be appropriate”, because Rundel et al were suing the RCMP. As an explanation for blocking an investigation at the highest level of the RCMP, it seemed subjective and arbitrary. Indeed, it appeared to open a door to anyone who wants to pre-empt a criminal investigation by paying $200 to file a civil claim against the Force in BC Supreme Court.

That did not dissuade either Rundel or former Mountie Monty Robinson from continuing to push for an investigation into a growing list of grievances and complaints. I won’t go into all of them here. You can read Blamed and Broken and discover many of them for yourself, in context. Chances are if you’re a journalist, in the RCMP or government, you’ve seen them anyway because you’re on Robinson’s mailing list. Robinson has been relentless in documenting allegations of an array of errors, failures and unsatisfactory responses by the RCMP: documents were inexplicably withheld that should have been released through access to information; a non-criminal complaint – still being reviewed - was investigated in part by an officer who refused to read the salient parts of Blamed and Broken because it was “a lot of pages”, and was “opinion”, not “facts”. I wrote about this previously. If nothing else, it raised a legitimate question about how seriously the RCMP wanted to re-examine its own involvement in the fate of all four Mounties. That seemed to change a couple of weeks ago, with “seemed” being the operative word.

Eric Stubbs, the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Criminal Operations for E Division, informed Robinson and Rundel that files had been opened into their allegations. One file deals with complaints that all four officers were scapegoated and harmed when the RCMP allegedly withheld critical exculpatory documents and evidence during the Braidwood Inquiry and subsequent criminal trials. Another file deals with allegations of obstruction by senior members of the RCMP to look into any of it.

When local news outlets finally caught on and – rightly - decided it was a story, the result was predictable, and unfortunately in keeping with how most of the media have approached the case: incremental noise that masks and confuses the signal. To understand why, you have to understand what's behind the allegations.

It was almost a decade ago that senior leaders in the RCMP wanted something they could take to the public to demonstrate the officers involved in Dziekanski’s death were being held responsible. Thomas Braidwood, who’d conducted the public inquiry into what happened, stopped short of finding the Mounties got together to concoct a self-serving version of events, but in the next breath Braidwood damned them by stating that they had motive and opportunity to lie. Braidwood insisted the officers had several hours to discuss the incident among themselves at the Airport and later at the RCMP sub-detachment as they waited to give their statements to homicide investigators. The main problem with this is that the Mounties were never all together at the sub-detachment and at the airport in the aftermath of Dziekanski’s death at least two of the four officers were separately busy, interviewing witnesses and running back and forth to secure the scene. Still, senior RCMP leaders wanted the four to sign a piece of paper - known as a 1004 - agreeing that they were wrong to have met together.

Mike Ingles, the staff representative who met with the Mounties just hours after the incident, was interviewed by lawyers for the Braidwood Inquiry but never called as a witness. He would later write in an email to a superior that he fully expected Braidwood’s findings to be challenged in court.

“Mr. Braidwood surmises that because they had the opportunity to fabricate a similar story that they did fabricate a story. That is complete and utter garbage.” (emphasis mine)

I wrote in detail about Ingles’ involvement in what happened, in Blamed and Broken. He is a compelling and forthright eye witness to a critical time period in the case. While the 1004s were later watered down they were still issued, before ultimately being quashed.

“These are media releases consistent with Braidwood’s report”, Ingles wrote at the time. "Everyone in policing knows the response was not as good as it needed to be, including the members involved no doubt. But that was a response that was within the parameters of their training.”

One only needs to read Blamed and Broken to understand how the prosecution parlayed the RCMP’s endorsement of Braidwood’s findings into four separate criminal trials. Two men went to prison. The two who were acquitted were found to be guilty anyway by the convicting judges who named them as co-conspirators in a collusion for which there was no direct evidence.

So why is the RCMP now apparently looking into its own role in what happened to the YVR four? The answer is complicated and was largely sidestepped by the media that jumped on the development this week. The truth is the RCMP isn’t doing anything it wouldn’t do if you or I walked into a detachment to make a complaint about criminal activity: open a file, give it a number and evaluate the allegations to determine if they are, in fact, criminal. This is precisely what Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs told me when I asked. No determination has been made by the RCMP that the complaint is criminal. And Stubbs says no decision has been made about what outside law enforcement agency might be asked to offer an impartial opinion or, at some point, conduct and actual investigation. It should be obvious without saying, but for clarity and certainty, the allegations being made by Robinson and Rundel are allegations and have not been proven.

So then, why is this important at all? The Commissioner of the RCMP rejected a call for an investigation more than a year ago.

Robinson calls this development “significant” and believes “the tide is turning…but given the political interference to date I do not expect it to stop.”

Rundel tells me he thinks that Blamed and Broken was the catalyst. I’m aware that Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs has read the book, though I have no idea what he thinks of it. But Rundel, who’s still an RCMP officer, is making no bets about where this latest development will lead. “Even if investigators recommend charges”, he tells me, “it’s Crown’s decision.”

This is true, and in B.C. prosecutions are only supposed to go forward if they are in the public interest, AND there is a substantial likelihood of a conviction. As I argue in Blamed and Broken, that didn’t seem to be the case in the prosecutions against the four men involved in Robert Dziekanski’s death. But that’s another story.

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